Updated: Aug 10, 2021
I missed writing about my thoughts last week. I had an amazing two weeks. You see, the boys were on vacation with their paternal aunt, and I stayed back to feed the cats, water the plants, and ultimately relax. I will miss next week’s writing too, as I will be away. That is why this note is a tad longer than normal.
So, last week, since I had the house to myself, I asked my dear cousin from the east coast to keep me company while my family was away. Ironically, it was the week of her 70th birthday, and we had a great time celebrating with her and I was grateful to her adult children for yielding her platinum jubilee to be with us. Just to clarify, the topic of this note has no relations to my cousin; I just felt the need to pay a tribute to her and her family for her 70th in the paragraph below…That’s all!
MY cousin whose name translates to butterfly, has always been an intriguing personality in my life. She is poetic and philosophical, which is why I enjoy hearing her analyze me and my motives. I may not agree with everything she says, but there are pockets of pearls that I excavate by listening to her. As a matter of fact. all her family have played a huge role in our lives. Her youngest brother, who is my age was my bestie as a child, while some of the most amazing book recommendations were from her younger sister. The entire family in general are unique and iconic. Especially their mom, who was my paternal aunt, and was angelic and as good as aunts can get.
Now that you know why I skipped a week, I want to share a note about a controversial topic that I have been thinking about for a while now. Gossip…what is considered gossip? why some love it? and how to manage our urge to gossip? I will also confess to having a gossip phase in my life.
Webster dictionary has several definitions for gossip. The gossip I want to discuss today, is defined as “a person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others”. Researchers define gossip as “talking about people who aren’t present,” (Megan Robbins, an assistant professor of psychology at The University of California, Riverside.) I am also certain that that not all the conversations about others is negative, sometimes it is just neutral, positive, or simply reporting on someone’s life situation.
All humans partake in some form of gossip. Whether it’s sharing family news, workplace babble, or texting among friends, it’s inevitable that anyone who talks, normally talks about other people. One reason for this is. that it is socially taboo to talk about yourself all the time. Second reason, in my humble opinion, is that if you talk about the person you are conversing with; they may feel uncomfortable or invaded. So, in general, it is easier to talk about someone who is not present. One thing is for sure, most folks talk about others behind their back, to either release some form of anger, or feel better about their own inadequacy.
What is unique about gossip friendships, is the tremendous guilt, hurt, and additional sensitivity it transmits. When we gossip, the guilt and paranoia kicks in. One is constantly worried if the other person has heard what you said, and the guilt causes you to continue. The vicious cycle would continue, until it becomes a habit.
As a teen, I was the gossip police. My friends did not dare talk about each other or anyone else in front of me. As I grew older, the need to fit in, stopped me from being so vocal about how I hated to hear about some else’s personal life while they were not present in the room; especially, if the story did not involve me.
So, here comes the confession…
After marriage and being blessed with children, I chose to be a stay home mom. (Mostly because of some awful nanny incidents). The more I stayed at home, the more I became desperate for adult and intellectually stimulating conversations. Most of my friends were also stay home moms, and most of our discussions revolved around child rearing techniques and/or we compared notes on “firsts” of our children. (First walks, talks, potty uses, etc.). Those were the good old days. Because we had no time for gossip.
Then, nursery school happened. Two-hour coffee outings with mothers who, like me, desperately needed to talk about something other than children. None of us had much time to watch the news or read books since most of us had 1+ toddlers. So the coffee outings normally ended up with some form of gossip or venting session about a teacher, another parent, or sometime about our spouses. I found myself quite unhappy about this situation because I was shamelessly joining in the discussions. Having a non-communicative partner did not help the disaster. I had heard that relationships, can bring the best or worst out in you. The worst in me was being dragged out big time.
What was crazier during that phase, was finding myself in the metro talking to complete strangers. If a person, had ears and could nod, I would pour my heart out to them. Back then, my family was on the other coast and the time difference and the fear of worrying them, prevented me from sharing my frustrations. Even though, I had a nice size phone book, yet the pages lacked substance, since most of the names were only acquaintances and not many reliable or trustworthy individuals existed, so I can cry on their shoulders or laugh for no reason. My mom-group friends had their own set of issues or worked and had not time for my issues. To be fair to myself, I would never call anyone to simply talk about someone else’s life, their looks, or how they behaved. Gossip to me was to share my personal problems and those who caused them. Well, I am sharing this intimate information about myself, because I want you to know that I have gone full circle on this topic. Started as a gossip police, then became a gossip goddess, and now back to understanding why gossip will hinder my spiritual growth.
And here is the apology…
If I ever gossiped to you, please know, I am almost fully reformed. I still vent to one or two trustworthy and close friends only when I am tired. This venting is healthier for my body and soul as I don’t have to carry the anger with me for a long period. Besides some folks are not into dialogue and opening to them, will cause a World War or a fist fight. Venting to someone honorable is like showering or washing the anger away. By the way, honorable here means someone who won’t exaggerate my words and share with the next person they see. More often now, instead of venting, I tell the person directly my issue with them, I write to them, or depending on how important they are to me, I may simply avoid them for the rest of my life.
To those readers who I talked about behind your back, I truly am sorry, but know I did you a favor. Here is why: If one is on a spiritual path, gossip hinders their spiritual growth. M.S. Irani believes that every soul is on this earth to unload certain impressions (to simplify, let’s call impressions as baggage). We carry these bags from our many past lives.
M.S. Irani asserts that we pick up some of the baggage from those we talk about without them being present. So, if for instance, Joe tells Mike: Jennifer is a bad person when Jennifer is not present. Joe picks up some of Jennifer’s baggage, and Mike who listened without stopping Joe also picks up some of Jennifer’s baggage. The goal in spirituality is to fully unload all our baggage that we’ve carried from one lifetime to another and become free of them. This same karmic law applies to sharing personal information about others.
The sticky part of sharing other people’s life story with your friend or someone you just met is that perhaps that friend most likely shared her story with you in confidence. If she wanted others to know about her life, she would do it herself. I also know the intention of the party sharing someone’s life story is noble and simply to teach a life lesson or their role in the story. People who do that probably have no better topic to discuss with the person. I have learned to deflect such conversations by bringing up a new book I read, a movie I recently watched or news about me and my children.
Gossip is a bad habit. Sharing other people’s life story is a bad habit. I am so glad my gossip days were short and are behind me. I sleep so much better at night knowing I am not accumulating other people’s baggage. To those who talk about me or share my life story: THANK YOU for unloading some of my spiritual baggage. Ultimately, we all have gossiped at some point in our lives, whether we instigated it or simply engaged in a conversation. We may find ourselves doing it again…the only thing to blame in situations like this is “not knowing” any better. As we know better, we will do better. We just must be willing to learn and practice.
As always, I am grateful.